Leadership Lessons from Confucius: take a break

take a break

Confucius said to Zixia: “Be a refined scholar, not a common pedant.” (1) (2)

Take a break from the daily data deluge. Turn your phone off, place it on your desk, and go for a walk. There’s a chance that you’ll be a little anxious to begin with at being cut off from civilization as you know it, but that feeling of isolation will soon wear off. Your mind will get accustomed to the lack of interruptions.

Before you know it, you will enjoy an unfamiliar sense of calm that enables your thoughts to flow freely for the first time in ages. This allows you to put the issues you are dealing with in perspective. How many of those hundreds of emails that are piled up in your inbox are worth your attention? Do you really need to attend all the meetings scheduled in your calendar? How about focusing your time and energy on coming up with some new ideas to inject fresh life into your marketing and communications? You know you’ve been promising to do that for far too long.

When you finally decide to return to the office you feel refreshed and revitalized. Sure, the data deluge won’t have stopped while you were away, but now that you have a clearer perspective you feel much better equipped to handle it.


This article features a translation of Chapter 13 of Book 6 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 6 here.

(1) Confucius is believed to have given this advice to his follower Zixia when he was thinking about setting up his own school. His point is that Zixia should adopt a more holistic approach with his teaching rather than get bogged down in too much detail. You can read more about the follower Zixia here.

(2) Although the character 儒 (rú) subsequently came to be very closely associated with Confucianism itself, when Confucius was alive it referred to scholars who specialized in teaching the traditional Zhou Dynasty rites. Confucius was a widely-acknowledged master of this esoteric field.

I took this image at the Temple of Mencius in Zoucheng, a small town near to Qufu. You can read more about it here.

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